Can Putin Survive?
The Lessons of the Soviet Collapse
Until a year or two ago we were entitled to believe that the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) could successfully hold the line at five nuclear weapons powers, if only a few holdout countries would sign or ratify it. Two events have thrown into serious doubt the ability of present policies to stem the further proliferation of nuclear weapon capabilities among additional nations.
The first event was the Indian "peaceful" nuclear explosion in May 1974, which jumped the firebreak between the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council-who are also the nuclear weapons powers-and all other nations. That barrier had held for ten years since the first Chinese detonation in 1964.
What seemed to undermine the earlier mild optimism that the NPT could do the job was not that "nuclear-weapons-capable" countries such as Sweden, Canada, Switzerland, Australia, Netherlands, Italy, Poland, Argentina, Brazil, Japan, and West Germany, or even nations in conflict like Pakistan, Taiwan, South Africa, South Korea, Israel, or Egypt were on the verge of exploding their own nuclear devices (though many think Israel is in fact the "seventh" nuclear weapons power). It was rather that the general climate of expectation about what was likely to take place had changed significantly. Many now believe that there will be Nuclear Weapons Power numbers 7, 8, 9, ad infinitum. Members of the international professional strategic community have already been discounting the future and shifting their planning to ways of living in a world of many nuclear weapons powers. The crucial new reality is thus not merely the existence of a sixth (or seventh) such power; it is above all the altered prediction that influential people around the world are making as a consequence.1
Having one more "nuclear-capable" power does not change the world. But what could change it would be a snowballing, fatalistic belief that becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy unless it is countered by a different belief that is equally potent.
The second event was the worldwide energy crisis. Predictions of numbers of future nuclear power plants now far exceed the figure planners had been using prior to the Arab oil embargo of 1973-74. The amount of plutonium to be produced over the next decade will be enough to put a major dent in the energy shortage-and to make thousands of atomic bombs.
These two portentous shifts in perception and planning came at a time when 55 of the 90 or so countries that have signed the 1970 Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty attended its May 1975 five-year Review Conference in Geneva. Just prior to the conference, and doubtless in anticipation of it, ratification had been completed by five West European states and South Korea.
The conference concentrated on tightening up technical controls and safeguards over the rapidly growing worldwide nuclear power-generating industry as well as the flow of nuclear fuels, uranium and plutonium, that go in and out of peaceful atomic reactors. The hair-raising specter of nuclear blackmail by hijacking and sabotage sharpened the delegates' concern for better means of guarding against capture of nuclear materials by terrorist groups.
The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is even now doing a competent, though limited, job of inspecting peaceful reactors to catch (or at least discourage) clandestine diversion of plutonium or enriched uranium. Most of the countries that are able to supply nuclear fuels and reactor technology, notably the United States and the Soviet Union, have agreed among themselves to export only to recipient countries that adopt IAEA safeguards (though last year's U.S. offer to Israel and Egypt showed Washington still unwilling to require inspection of older facilities as the price for new help).
All in all, many laudable efforts are going into strengthening the NPT "regime," which is clearly the best answer so far to limiting the further spread of nuclear weaponry. The great majority of nations, and certainly of human beings, clearly support its goal. A few people may remain comfortable with the scenario of dozens of countries, some at war with one another, newly enabled to destroy humankind by the millions, even to trigger the apocalypse of superpower strategic war. But overwhelmingly the rest of us cling to the conviction that, as someone put it, "when you have five, or even six, idiot children, it's time to practice birth control." Certainly no one can quarrel with this concentration on the contingent problem of clandestine nuclear activities, aimed at preventing cheating as well as making peaceful nuclear technology more readily available under safeguards.
But now that the Review Conference is out of the way, it is time to raise the sobering possibility that all this activity, while essential, will not be enough. For what has never been adequately dealt with, probably because it seemed politically insuperable, is the inherently discriminatory nature of the present system.
In our epoch, the evidence is everywhere of the dominant role of national status-seeking and the drive to "feel equal." An entire philosophy of resentful Third World economics bears the telltale name "dependency theory." Third World proposals for a "New Economic and Social Order" reflect a veritable obsession with eradicating the stigmata of inferiority. The walls of every international conference room, from OPEC to the U.N. General Assembly, resound with strident demands for equal status. At the symbolic level (which Harold Isaacs reminds us is anything but trivial2) there are few nations, however poor or tiny, that cannot boast of a flag airline, diplomatic limousines (usually longer than that of the U.S. Ambassador), international hotels, supersonic jets-and nuclear power reactors.
Even at the superpower level, no serious negotiation with the Soviets on strategic nuclear arms was possible until Moscow felt it had acquired "parity." And if final proof were needed, even those Indians most critical of their government for other deeds or misdeeds unanimously express pride over its achievement in exploding a "peaceful" nuclear device.
It is against this backdrop that the NPT regime has to be assessed. The cold fact is that, without exception, every single aspect of the nuclear nonproliferation system is discriminatory. Indeed, the more successful the NPT system, the more absolute the distinction between those who have nuclear weapons and those who do not.
The most obvious distinction is of course that between five (or six) nations possessing the means of mass nuclear destruction, and the remaining hundred and forty or so which do not and, according to the proposed rules of the game, never will.
This distinction carries the further division between openness to verification by the Vienna agency's inspectors (for all nonweapons' countries) and secrecy for all the great powers' reactors, even their peaceful ones. The exception is the United States, which has offered to open its peaceful reactors, though of course not its military ones, to IAEA inspection. Conversations in Moscow in the spring of 1975 confirm the insistence of the other nuclear superpower on increased controls for everyone but the great powers.
Article VI of the Nonproliferation Treaty commits the superpowers to good-faith efforts toward nuclear disarmament, but few outside Moscow and Washington believe the process was seriously begun with the 2,400-launcher agreement of Vladivostok in 1974.
Brazil for one (and India before it) apparently believes that some of its economic development projects could benefit from peaceful nuclear explosions (PNEs). The United States now argues that peaceful nuclear explosions are bad for others, since we don't find them cost-effective for us. If other countries still want PNEs they are free to come, hat in hand, to Washington, Moscow, London, Paris, or presumably Peking, as supplicants for Big Brother's technical fix.
Security guarantees were offered in 1968, but they are subject to the veto, and moreover it seems absurd to guarantee only against nuclear attack when countries can be devastated by nuclear powers using conventional weapons.
As for the spent fuel rods coming out of nuclear reactors and requiring reprocessing in expensive plants to recover the residual plutonium, the position Washington has taken is that we will do the re-processing for our clients. But of course India, once deciding to acquire a nuclear explosion capability, built her own chemical separation plant and thus bypassed the controls the donor-Canada-had put on the power reactor that produced the used fuel rods.
In all of these ways the system provides that the "first-class" nuclear states not only have a monopoly on the weapons, but also on the international decision-making about peaceful uses.
In the same vein, it is a fact that all current anti-proliferation policies, however worthy, are in the realm of denial. More than that, except for the inspection performed by IAEA inspectors, these policies are overwhelmingly on a nation-to-nation rather than a multilateral basis. Both of these features-denial and nation-based action-may actually reinforce the possible trend toward proliferation to the extent that the trend arises from a sense of inequality, resentment against what is perceived as discrimination, and a desire for equivalent rights and status.
The irony is that while we live, pace Marx, in an age of international class struggle, the international "ruling class" of nuclear weapons states (led, pace Lenin, by the U.S.S.R.) demands its right to exclusive status unto perpetuity. In an era dominated by demands for identity, respect, equity, and participation, it seems reasonable to ask whether, with the best will in the world, the present NPT system of discrimination, denial, and second-class citizenship will in fact achieve its aim of preventing the further spread of nuclear weapons. For if my reasoning is correct, it is considerations of prestige and nondiscrimination that in an age of rampant nationalism stand as the chief obstacles to universal agreement on nonproliferation.
It follows that the chief danger in the years ahead is not that any given country will secretly cheat in its nuclear bookkeeping-which is what the present international system seeks to inhibit. It is that a country will openly decide to acquire a nuclear weapons capability, for reasons which since time immemorial, and today as never before, drive nations to seek prestige, influence, and above all equality.3
Of course, if all countries were to sign and ratify the Nonproliferation Treaty, and the Treaty regime were greatly strengthened, the problem would presumably be solved. But this is a tautology: in fact, a dozen key "threshold countries" have not fully joined, countries such as Brazil, Argentina, Israel, Japan, Pakistan, Egypt, Spain, and South Africa, whose importance to international peace and stability is obvious. India may not actually fabricate a bomb; but neither is she likely to take a "morning-after" pill that will return her to pre-1974 nuclear innocence. Each new nuclear weapons country tends to stay that way. Even the present safeguard procedures may become inadequate as new technical options, such as the breeder reactor and high-temperature gas reactor, call for much more intrusive inspection.
Yet if the conclusion is correct that the problem of proliferation is as much psychological as it is technical, political, or military, current incentives to take the pledge are insufficient. No matter what the rhetoric, a world in which five or six nations control the weapons technology is by definition discriminatory; a system which leaves all the decision-making in their hands is by definition paternalistic. Clearly there is an unfilled need for a more attractive option than either accepting the monopolistic position of the "nuclear OPEC," or going it alone.
It follows that to provide not just negative but also positive incentives to the principal holdouts, additional measures need to be developed that go beyond technical safeguards, important as these are. In the classic language of criminology, efforts at nonproliferation need to aim not only at means and opportunity-means which are universally increasing while opportunity for open violation of the spirit of the treaty remains unhindered-but also at the motives for going nuclear as a political act.
Such measures would have to confront directly the political and psychological foundations of the potential drive toward further nuclear spread. Perhaps no steps even in this direction would deflect leaders determined to acquire weaponry they believe will give them an edge, even if strategic analysis proves them overwhelmingly wrong. But to the extent the drive is primarily motivated-as I believe it to be-by nonstrategic and to that extent non-"rational" feelings and perceptions, the countries that presently hold the power and the institutional leadership will now have to open their minds to some hitherto "unrealistic" answers to the central question: What policies by those who favor the Nonproliferation Treaty are most likely to change the climate surrounding nuclear spread back to one in which the normal expectation is continued nonproliferation?
A comprehensive answer to this question must be two-tracked. On the first track it is still essential to pursue the goals of effective controls and safeguards-"disincentives" to going nuclear.
But the second track, to which little attention has been given, is to reduce the political and psychological incentive to become a nuclear weapons power.
How is this to be done?
The logic of the situation requires that an expanded nonproliferation strategy focus on tangible ways to give the outsiders a far more genuine sense of participation in the system. It is obviously not enough to say to them, with the late President Kennedy, "Life is unfair." Deep-rooted feelings of political alienation and resentment can be overcome only by greater true equality. There must be shared opportunities to gain prestige through participation in decision-making, which in turn requires that responsibilities be much more broadly allocated than under the present two-class system. The operative hypothesis is that a seat at the top table of nuclear institutional diplomacy is the price the "monopolists" must pay to others who agree to forgo a seat at the top table of nuclear weaponry.
When we speak of "participation" we are no longer dealing in symbols but in the hard currency of political power. And if the number of those becoming involved in decision-making about international nuclear activities is to grow to include at least the "near-nuclear" countries, here too we come to the end of abstractions, and into the creation, design, and operation of political forms and structures appropriate to the problem.
Are we then talking about a new Baruch Plan? Nuclear disarmament? World government?
The Baruch Plan of 1946 (based on the so-called Acheson-Lilienthal Report) called for "managerial control or ownership of all atomic energy activities potentially dangerous to world security," along with "power to control, inspect, and license all other atomic activities." That program entailed internationalization of the whole vertical structure starting with uranium ore, through isotope-separation plants, processing of fuel, and, a fortiori, the making of nuclear weapons, which were to be totally banned without national veto.
Soviet antagonism to supranational schemes in a U.S.-led world, the weakness of the United Nations in an era of cold war, and despair at the prospects of nuclear disarmament, all made a dead letter of the Baruch Plan approach. Even apart from political unreality, international ownership of the entire vertical industrial nuclear structure, from mine to power generator, is inconceivable today given the enormity and complexity of that structure compared with 1946. Uranium is everywhere in the ground, and soon nuclear reactors will be in virtually every country in the world. In addition, to link progress toward nonproliferation to effective nuclear disarmament (as the Baruch Plan did) would ensure the former's automatic failure. It was hard enough to negotiate SALT I and II over a five-year period, and these leave enough weapons in superpower hands to destroy the planet many times over. Our puzzle is how to change the system enough to get a better political-psychological base under nonproliferation without having to work a total transformation in man or in the basic geometry of his political world.
What can be done is to turn the 1946 Plan on its head, so to speak, and, while candidly admitting the possibility of indefinite possession of nuclear weapons in national hands, to concentrate on internationalizing, to the extent necessary, the nonweapons aspects of the fuel cycle that represent key avenues to further weapons proliferation. The text could well be Henry Kissinger's comments that a "new international structure" has to be built "not on the sense of preeminence of two power centers, but on the sense of participation of those who are part of the global environment."4 It is a mark of our recent loss of confidence in international institution-building that neither Secretary Kissinger nor many of those concerned with nuclear spread have seriously tried to implement such insights with the kind of thinking that made the mid-1940s a relatively Golden Age of international political inventiveness and institution-building.
Even in this age of limited vision, the NATO Nuclear Planning Group, for instance, went a good distance toward draining tension from the two-class Atlantic Alliance structure by the device of sharing in planning on a matter vital to all. Similarly, a partial approach to nonproliferation would seek to create a changed political environment in which some key elements of peaceful nuclear activities were actually regulated by the international community, and in which important nonweapons countries were full participants in international decision-making. If this were achieved, the political motive to go nuclear arising from resentment at discrimination would be significantly diminished. And so also would the technical means to do so.
Four things can be done within the framework of a partial approach. None of them requires nuclear disarmament, a working collective security system, or total international ownership à la Baruch-all of which seem far-fetched in the present world of nationalism. But the partial approach would call for some degree of change in the operating international political and economic ground rules. Starting with the least threatening or "revolutionary" steps, candidates for significantly greater international control are: (1) the reprocessing of plutonium from reactors; (2) peaceful nuclear explosions; (3) nuclear fuels, notably those based on plutonium and highly enriched uranium; and (4) more distantly, the uranium enrichment processes. Success with the first steps would generate momentum toward next steps. But each step taken, beginning with the first, would have enormous significance for nonproliferation.
First, plutonium which is sufficiently pure to be used in a light-water reactor-or a bomb-requires in most cases processing in a chemical separation plant that separates it from unspent uranium and other materials contained in fuel rods which have been irradiated in a reactor. For most of the reactors being built, where the spent fuel rods are reprocessed is where weapons-grade plutonium could also be produced.
The number of spent fuel rods that will be moving about in the years to come is staggering. The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) estimates there will soon be between 7,000 and 12,000 shipments annually between reactors and reprocessing plants. By the early 1980s this will mean that the present nonweapons countries will have available to them annually 26,000 or so kilograms of Plutonium 239-enough to make 50 atomic bombs a week if they choose to. Thus plutonium need only be extracted from the spent fuel rods through reprocessing techniques which, as India has shown, can be readily built at least on a small scale.
This seems an excellent candidate for immediate internationalization. Not many reprocessing plants have yet been built, thanks to the expense, which runs to the hundreds of millions of dollars. The United States has arranged to have recipients of U.S. nuclear fuels send their spent fuel rods for reprocessing to the United States (or in some cases a third country). Little of this is actually being done yet, and the present is thus a good time to rethink the system. For current arrangements simply perpetuate the politically pernicious system of patronage and multiclass citizenship.
A series of internationally controlled facilities, along with internationally regulated and protected transport of this lethal material to and from plants, would represent "community" control of a process that is crucial to all, but is currently held by the "nuclear monopolists." It would upgrade vital safety and ecological considerations by standardizing the process. And it would ensure economies of scale by means of consolidated facilities, located on economically rational rather than political-nationalistic grounds. This is clearly a case where a planned regional approach makes sense (as on a regional scale Eurochemique, an agency of the OECD, today reprocesses the spent fuel rods of OECD members in Europe). Regionalization also reduces the danger of domination or capture and, more positively, spreads control facilities and thus participation.
A second candidate for genuine international management is peaceful nuclear explosions (PNEs). As I suggested earlier, the value of PNEs for engineering purposes is highly controversial. Various groups of U.S. scientists have tried hard in recent months to persuade their Soviet counterparts that on the basis of the American "Plowshare" experiments, PNEs are uneconomic, dangerous-and a spur to proliferation. Moscow today seems as divided as Washington was a decade ago between skeptics and enthusiasts, and may still want to use PNEs to reroute rivers, dredge canals, and move mountains.
Both India and Brazil have talked of the need to retain the "PNE option," given that their only choice was between asking for great-power help or going nuclear themselves. Recognizing this incentive, some modest efforts have been made to implement the NPT's promise of international procedures to ensure the benefits of peaceful nuclear explosions. The current U.S. position calls for "internationally approved facilities," national in nature although sprinkled lightly with U.N. or IAEA holy water. In fact the Mexican government-a pioneer in innovative NPT thinking-seven years ago proposed internationalization of the PNE program. Officials of the Agency for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons in Latin America (OPANAL) justifiably point out that both Argentina and Brazil-two current NPT holdouts-supported that 1968 initiative; perhaps even India would have found it hard to justify her unilateral explosion if the Mexican initiative had been followed up.
Proposals to internationalize PNEs have usually foundered on military security grounds reflected by the question, "Would you want to give an atomic bomb to Waldheim?" There are, as always, pros and cons to this question, including the danger that creation of a new facility for peaceful nuclear explosions might persuade countries to believe it to be a good idea and thus encourage them to acquire the capability nationally. Against this is the more likely contingency of other countries doing what India did: acquiring a nuclear capability on the pretext-or genuine belief-that peaceful nuclear explosions may contribute to their economic development.
Given the great importance of creating a new political-psychological climate for nuclear power, it would seem more important to move to internationalize these peaceful capabilities than to temporize further on debatable technical and engineering grounds. Even if such explosions prove to be uneconomic, the purpose of designing a truly international facility will have been served if, through its symbolism, it contributes to the belief on the part of nations that there is a real promise of a new and fairer international order involving nuclear power, in which all will be assured of receiving benefits.
But a changed approach would also have to be for real. An "international PNE facility" would not affect the stockpiles of nuclear weapons in the hands of the big powers. But it must give to countries that hold back from the NPT on grounds of status and autonomy a greater sense of participation in a far less discriminatory system.
The technical and security issues in a joint international PNE service are complex but not insurmountable. The challenge would be to find a political-technical mix between the extremes of "giving a bomb to Waldheim" and continuing to require proud nations to come to Washington or Moscow to appeal for the technology for peaceful explosions. As a first approximation, the technology for a reasonably clean and efficient nuclear device could be set at the lowest level of common technical knowledge between the United States and the Soviet Union, a level that is probably fairly sophisticated. To reach that point, a joint research project could be undertaken to define and engineer such a "state of the art" device.
Security precautions would of course be required to ensure against risks of theft or sabotage. Some of the means already in existence include making explosive devices unwieldy, utilizing multiple electronic "keys," and applying such proven measures as the warhead security procedures of the U.S. Air Force.
By keeping the technology simple, it seems plausible that the facility could operate at the threshold of common technical knowledge and still be genuinely multinational in composition, security, and decision-making. This is the chief point-that the essentially political decisions about rendering PNE services, including policy questions of cost, personnel, priorities, timing, and the like would be made by an international board consisting of all the nuclear weapons powers plus the principal near-nuclear powers.
Already some countries such as Australia and Canada have endorsed proposals for international arrangements for peaceful explosions. This is a case where leadership could best come from those states most affected by the problem rather than from Washington. But what needs to come from Washington (and Moscow and London and Paris and Peking) is a willingness to implement their words about equality and world order.
This brings us to the third point. Looking ahead to a climate in which steps have been taken to share at least some important peaceful nuclear responsibilities and privileges, it may become possible to consider the means by which the international community could get a handle on the basic element of the process-the uranium itself.
Given the widespread existence of uranium in natural local formations in many parts of the world, it is out of the question to transfer title of uranium ore, even of high (say one percent to two percent) concentration, to the international community. But a partial plan might in its later stage provide for international title over all processed uranium-based nuclear fuels, which would include all enriched uranium and all plutonium. All such fuels would be defined as "public goods." Compensation to present owners for fuels now in process would be made through a bond issue to be amortized over a period of years from the proceeds of future sales to power and research plants. Licenses would be issued for extraction and primary processing and shipping, and efficient surveillance and record-keeping would be maintained to ensure that shipments went to their intended destinations. The control process would be supported by fees from licensing.
The legal principal for plutonium, and for high-grade uranium, would be that these "goods" have the same international legal standing as the seabed beyond the likely 200-mile economic resources zone. Under international rules the seabed and the seas above it represent "the common heritage of mankind" whose exploration will, with any luck, be licensed and regulated by an international authority. Similarly, an international authority would license and regulate national or private production of enriched uranium. The international community would also prescribe standards for the handling of enriched uranium and its insertion into the power reactor network. IAEA inspection would be performed at all nuclear power reactors using both U-238 and U-235.
One reason for deferring this step is that historically some weapons-grade fissionable material is produced by power reactors and some by military reactors. This kind of complication would be bypassed by taking the larger arms-control step of ending production of all fissionable material for military purposes. We should return to the 1966 U.S. proposal for a cut-off in the production of all weapons-grade material and the transfer of substantial military stocks of U-235 and plutonium to peaceful uses.
The final element of the scheme is to bring under international control the means of enriching uranium. The expensive and complex isotope-separation method of gaseous diffusion may in time be replaced by much less expensive and complex techniques such as gas centrifuge technology, lasers, and the South African nozzle process. The last stages of an agreed partial plan would require that all means for generating enriched uranium be regarded as a public utility. Private or national ownership under licensed international supervision would continue in the first stage, but by the final stages such plants would be publicly owned and operated either directly or under international license. Compensation would be as above.
Each step in the suggested plan entails empowering an international authority to do an increasingly complex job. Where to start?
One approach would be to start with the principal nations willing to proceed now rather than to await universal agreement. For instance, China and France might not join at the outset, but agreement might be reached among a substantial number of nations to designate international reprocessing facilities and outline a workable system of control and management under the IAEA-or as a separate agency.
If a "coalition of the willing" could be formed by the United States, the Soviet Union, Britain, and India, plus most of the key "threshold powers," a partial community with embryonic common institutions could be set up among them, creating a standard to which the unwise could be encouraged to repair. Whether the new authority is a specialized agency of the U.N. family, or a new agency, or attached to the IAEA, is far less important than that the membership in the first instance include most of the present nuclear supplier powers and, above all, most of the crucial potential nuclear powers.
Alternatively, the proposal could be put to the United Nations and to the IAEA to be adopted and implemented by the existing organizations. The IAEA, the U.N., or the parties to the Treaty could decide to create blue-ribbon panels of experts to study and report, by a specified deadline, recommendations which a reconvened NPT Review Conference might consider.
In proceeding to increase the power of the international community, a step-by-step process is essential, with a final stage that does not put the entire plan in jeopardy because of its obvious absurdity or its failure to take into account persistent characteristics of the human condition. Such a phased plan could specify one function on which work should begin without delay, e.g., international reprocessing facilities; the urgency of this step is underlined by the proposal of Iran-a full party to the Treaty-to build its own separation plant. Stage Two could create an international facility for PNEs. Stage Three, control over refined fuels of a specified type. And Stage Four, international control or ownership of uranium enrichment facilities. Or steps could be taken on each of these fronts in each stage, with modest steps in Stage One, and completion across the board in Stage Three or Four.
To begin with, however, in the spirit of the proposal, consultations should begin with others so the plan can become theirs as much as it would be ours. Those others must include the present nuclear weapons powers. But above all it must involve those whose decisions, both on capabilities and intentions, will be the fateful ones. For all parties, even the partial approach calls for a leap of imagination. But so does living in a world of proliferated nuclear weapons where every minor international quarrel could become genocidal.
1 An informal poll of leading U.S. nonproliferation experts meeting privately in March 1975 showed 14 out of 21 anticipating the existence of one to four additional nuclear weapons powers in the next decade. Four experts expected seven to ten more "bomb powers," and none predicted that the line would be held at six.
2 Harold Isaacs, "Nationality: End of the Road?" Foreign Affairs, April 1975.
3 On April i, 1975, in introducing a bill calling on the Argentine government to build a nuclear bomb, one legislator declared: "Recent events have demonstrated that nations gain increasing recognition in the international arena in accordance with their power." The example he cited was China, deliberately ignored by the great powers until she went nuclear.
4 See The New York Times, October 13, 1974.
A Year In, His Foreign Policy Is Too Cautious and Conventional